December 30, 2010

Week 15: Steps To Advertise on Radio

Unlocking the Mystery of Radio Advertising

According to the Federal Communications Commission, there are 14,547 licensed radio stations in the United States as of September 2010 [source]. No matter how much you think you’re losing people to iPods, Satellite Radio, and CD Players, the number of people who actually listen to radio number more than the number of people who access any other kind of advertising (like print, TV, and billboard).

And radio is intrusive. It gives you sound… a voice… it enables you to provide a sonic version of who you are and what you stand for. Radio is also mobile, it’s playing at the store, in the car, and even streaming online.

Radio can be very effective, but you have to be very careful. You can easily spend a lot of money and be totally ineffective.

To be successful advertising in radio, you’ve got to drive many things home. It’s a mix of things you have no creative control over (listenership) and things you are totally in control of (message).

Before spending dollar one, you need to do some research. Here’s a few things to consider.

In business this is called “frequency.” How many times is the listener going to listen to your commercial before they make a decision to remember the information?

The answer to that question is a little complicated. After hearing a commercial about 3-4 times, someone will be able to recall it. The trick is, getting that person to hear the commercial.

What Time Is It?
Consider your audience. If you are trying to get someone out after 10p, you should cater to those who are up at that time. I’m going to tell you something that not many people will. Buy night time (7p-midnight) or overnight (midnight – 6a). It’s cheaper and you reach people who are listening to the radio at the same time as they could be at your gig. Don’t let them talk you into spreading it out to run all day. Cluster your spots so they run in the same timeframe each night (this is called “rotation”). That way you increase your chance of the same person hearing the ad again.

Buy Bulk
If you are able to do this, buy a big chunk of radio all at once. The best deals are 52 weeks. Of course, you have to have the cash on hand to make it happen. If you’re a member of a group of indie musicians, perhaps you can pool resources. If you don’t have the money for that, know that you should run an ad for about 3-4 weeks for maximum effectiveness. And run the same ad. Don’t change the message. Even if you don’t get someone out to this particular show, there’s going to be a whole lot of new people who now know your band’s name.

How many people are listening to that station at that time? Radio stations have actual data. Yes, they skew it to sell… and they’ll try and sell you the most ”important” times (which oddly enough is also the most expensive). If you visit you can get a list of radio stations in your area and their format (what they play). You can pick some of the lesser known stations for less expensive advertising. Remember, you’re not trying to reach a certain person, you’re trying to reach as many people as possible who might like your music. If you can reach more people on a lesser known station, do it.

Station Identification
If you were selling plumbing or shoes you wouldn’t have to think about this, but you’re selling your music. This is something that you need to think about. What is your music like? Does it fit into one particular genre? I’m willing to bet that you can find 2-3 radio stations that fans of your music may listen to (I counted 46 radio stations in Austin alone). Even if you are heavy metal, there’s a good change that the local pop/rock station could cater to your fans.

Now, if you’re metal, chances are you don’t want to advertise on a country station or easy listening. But don’t get too involved in this…if the guitars plug in and most of the music isn’t twangy, you can pretty much buy ads on any station.

How Long?
There are varying lengths of time you can buy an ad. I would suggest :15 or :30 seconds. Yes, you can buy fifteen seconds. Don’t let them tell you otherwise. You’re buying AIR. There is no preset compartment air fits in. Want to play with the sales rep? Get a quote for :30 second spots and when you have it at exactly the right price… tell them to split it into :15s and double your repetition and rotation. Yeah, they’ll get pissed. But you have the right. Warning, if you’re not spending a good chunk of change, they probably will not care about your business enough to play this game, so reserve this for a big buy… not a 2 week run.

What about the Ad?
If you didn’t notice, none of the above has ANYTHING to do with the show you’re promoting or the actual ad you’re writing. Who you reach is as important as what you say. If you write the best ad in the world and nobody hears it, did it work for you?

Now let’s get down to the ad itself. I’m not going to write it for you, but here are a few pointers.

Note: I can write your ad, but I’m not doing it for free. Contact me through the Outlaw Entertainment Group if you’re interested in that -

Write It Yourself
The radio station may offer to let their writers take care of the script and record it using their people. They will make it seem like it’s part of the “deal.” Don’t do this. Not because they aren’t good writers (although most of them aren’t). It’s because they don’t know you, your band, or the important things you need to get across in your ad. They are not invested in you. They will write the most generic ad possible because they are just writing 30 seconds of words like they did for the furniture store and the car dealership before you.

Ever wonder why spots promoting a radio station are interesting? It’s something the writer is invested in. It’s something they know by heart, and something they believe in. You’re band is not that. Write your own ad.

Information to Include
Think about your ad itself. What information NEEDS to be in there, what information would be nice to have, and what information is just extra?

Basic information – Make sure you include these: club name, bands playing, date of gig, time doors open, and cost.
Would be nice – Website to go for more information and free downloads or to print out a discount coupon (something you can actually track)

No, this isn’t the order of songs on your album. This is how you can have hard proof that the ad worked. Put something in the ad that will enable you to see whether the ad worked. Like in the above paragraph. You can track if someone visits a Website and downloads a coupon or music. Likewise, saying “mention (Name of radio station) for $2 off at the door” and you’ll definitely know they heard it there. Use this to see if you wasted your money or spent it wisely.

Make it Interesting
You’re show is going to be a great time… right? Well, the ad should sell that. It shouldn’t sound like a typical radio ad that is selling shoes or alcohol. Make it memorable. If you’ve got a crazy loud member of the band, they are the spokesperson. The less they sound like they should be on radio the better. You’re trying to make people remember.

If you have to yell – “Kazzoo Zazzoo February 5 is gonna be a great night at the Red Eyed Fly, I’ll tell you what!” Make it happen. You’ll get people walking up to you show night asking what the heck Kazzoo Zazzoo means. You know what it means. They HEARD the ad.

And THAT is what you want to happen, right?

Good luck and Happy New Year.

Sean Claes is the owner of Austin's INsite Magazine and has been a freelance entertainment writer since 1996. For an introduction to his "52 Weeks of DIY Music Advice" visit this link - If you like what you read... please share. To visit Claes' homepage, go here -

December 25, 2010


(This is Week 14 of my Fifty-Two Weeks of Music Do-It-Yourself advice)

Week 14: Do You What I See?
OK y'all. This is the week of Christmas. Instead of writing an article, I'm going to share a few "music related" cartoons. You may think I'm slacking off (and you'd be half right) but think about it. You can actually learn from these jokes. THIS is how some people in the public perceive music and musicians (it's funny because it's true).

Could any of these comics be about you or your band?
Are you there stereotype or the exception to the rule?
Are you the punchline?

If yes... you need to reassess your commitment to music...unless you're cool with being a joke (some bands are cool with it... and that's fine).
If no... congrats, you're going to find these funny... hopefully.

OK.. I need to stop being serious. Just enjoy and have yourself a Merry Christmas.

The Buckets
From The Buckets
From: Toothpaste For Dinner
From: Super Poop

From Frazz

From Herman

Jump Start
From Jump Start

Big Nate
From Big Nate


What The Duck
From What The Duck

Sean Claes is the owner of Austin's INsite Magazine and has been a freelance entertainment writer since 1996. For an introduction to his "52 Weeks of DIY Music Advice" visit this link - If you like what you read... please share. To visit Claes' homepage, go here -

December 22, 2010

Sean Claes' Top Ten Austin Music Releases for 2010

The Top 10 Austin CDs I Listened to this Year

Those who have been following Notes From The Cubicle are aware that between September 2009 and September 2010 I took on a challenge to review one release from an Austin-based band a week for a year. At the end I reviewed 55 different CDs. Why 55? Well, there were 6 EPs in there and I count those as half an album. I have very strong feelings on EPs, which I discuss here (Click link).  

Anyhow. I thought since the year is wrapping up, I’d give you my Top 10 releases I reviewed this year. These are all Austin-based bands and I hope you have a chance to listen to each one at some point. I won’t explain my choices, but I’ll give you a link to the review which will do that for me. Also, if you’ve not heard that particular band, there’s a link to their site and, in most cases, a YouTube video of them playing live.

Now, this was a hard thing for me to cull down to just 10. I only review CDs that I enjoy, so every one of the 55 on that list is a keeper in my eyes. These are just representative of the ones that I find really, really stellar among really good CDs.

So, Merry Christmas and I hope you enjoy this little ditty.

Listed in order of 10-1 with 1 being my favorite.

10. Bobby Bookout - Bobby Bookout
8. Lennon's Song - We Love, We Learn, We Grow
7. Trashy and the Kid - Songs In The Key of Blow Me
6. Alejandro Escovedo - Street Songs of Love
5. The Jeremy Miller Band -  Way Too Fast
4. Ray Wylie Hubbard - A. Enlightenment B. Endarkenment (Hint: There is no C)
3. Terri Hendrix - Cry Till You Laugh 
2. One-Eyed Doll - Break
1. Dave Madden  - Open Eyed / Broken Wide

Dave Madden - Open Eyed
Dave Madden - Broken Wide

Thanks to all who make music for giving me the gift of hearing your craft. And thanks to all who read my musings for giving me a little home to share my thoughts and feelings.

God Bless you and keep you safe in 2011 and beyond.
Sean Claes

p.s. If you're interested, my new challenge for 2010-2011 is 52 Weeks of DIY Music Advice. Check it out and please give feedback.

December 16, 2010

Week 13: Basic Ground Rules

Basic Ground Rules

Treat your band like a business. I have mentioned a few times in past articles and will continue to mention this throughout this series.

Like most of the musicians I know, I have a day job. Making a living off of being an entertainment writer is just as difficult as making a living off of music itself. There is a big pond and we’re all small fish hoping to grow.

Anyhow, in every meeting room at my workplace, there’s a poster that states the “Basic Ground Rules.” It’s easy to ignore or treat like one of those stupid motivational posters (although I do dig the demotivational posters on but it really does give good advice for the workplace… and perhaps bands as well.

So... below are the words on the poster along with my suggestions about how this is applicable in DIY music.

Poster from a meeting room where I work.

Basic Ground Rules
Get it in writing
The problem with a “gentleman’s agreement” is not everyone is a gentleman. When you book a show or agree to appear on a show or at a function, make sure all of the details are in writing and signed by both parties (or at least in an e-mail you’ve printed and taken with you). Things to consider including are: the time, date, price agreed upon, price at the door, sound requirements, number of spots on the guest list, number of drink tickets, contact numbers in case any issues arise… anything you think you’ll need. It’s not that hard to do and it will come in handy at some point.

Be punctual and be prepared
Don’t show up late to your own gig. That should be a given, but for some reason bands get this one wrong a lot. And then they complain when the club doesn’t take their calls. Show up early, make sure you have everything loaded in, hang around and support the other bands on the bill. And when it’s your time to get on stage, BE READY.

Strive to reach consensus
Everyone in the band should have equal rights to have their opinion heard inside the four walls of the band. Each person in your band should be in it for the same reason, to play the music they love for people who dig it. Have band meetings before practice and keep your ego in check. You’re not always going to agree on every detail, but you better have a valid reason behind your decisions.

And when it is time to talk up and promote your band, make sure you all agree on the direction the band is going. Then, elect a leader or spokesperson for your band. This will be the contact clubs will use, media will reach, and fans will be talking to on MySpace, Twitter and Facebook. The spokesperson should be able to talk intelligently about the project at any time. And if you’re not the “elected” spokesperson for the band, you should know what your band’s story is and be able to share it if you have an opportunity to do so (to family, friends, or the stranger on the bar stool next to you that says “Hey, you’re in a band, right?”

One conversation at a time
When you have band meetings, make a list of things to talk about (mental or written) and cover each thing individually. This gives equal weight to all conversations and nobody who has a question will feel ignored or passed over. Its just good manners and it’ll make the unit a stronger one since everyone will know their being heard.

Respect the views of others
So, the local live music rag just trashed last week’s show. Instead of going off about it, why not shoot the reviewer e-mail and thank them for the mention, for coming to the show, and ask if there was anything they can suggest to improve it for next time. You may get a flippant response or no response at all, but you may actually get some good feedback. Always strive to improve and learn your craft.

Inside the band, make sure everyone’s voice is heard and ideas are shared without fear of being raked over the coals. Remember, sometimes the dumbest idea can be the million-dollar discovery. I mean… look at the guy who invented the “sun shade” for cars, or the “Shake Weight,” or KISS’ “I Was Made For Loving You” (rumor has it that song was written as a joke by Paul Stanley to prove how dumb disco music was).

Keep the discussion relevant

Much like this dog in UP, I’ve ALWAYS had problems with this. I’m all over the place mentally… all the time. While writing this I’ve stopped to check Facebook, go to lunch, start designing a Christmas flier for church, upload a video, answer a phone call, order a free bible online (you can get one too - from burn CDs, and check e-mail. When I’m in a meeting, I’ll get a little gleam in my eye and set the group off on a tangent… almost every time. I’m trying to get better though, because I know when dealing with a group, there has to be focus. Keep on the subject at hand and talk about “Red House Furniture” later.

Seriously. Have you seen that commercial for Red House? It’s awesome. I’ll post it at the end of this blog… because you really need to keep reading.

The group is responsible for the outcome
Whatever you create, you create it together. Your band is a partnership, a collective. I’m not saying you should credit the band for songs you’ve written or lessen your creative role in the band. I’m just saying as a band, you present yourself as a single unit and everybody is equal once you step up on stage. If the drummer is off or the guitar is out of tune, or the vocalist’s voice cracks the person in the audience will attribute what they saw to the entire band, not just an individual member, so take it seriously. If you have a problem with the group being responsible for the outcome… you need to go solo. You shouldn’t be in a band.

So... that's is for this week. Did you find this helpful or insightful? Let me know via comment (or click a box below).

Oh.. almost forgot. here's "Red House"

Sean Claes is the owner of Austin's INsite Magazine and has been a freelance entertainment writer since 1996. For an introduction to his "52 Weeks of DIY Music Advice" visit this link - If you like what you read... please share. To visit Claes' homepage, go here -

December 9, 2010

Week 12: Where’s Your Glass Ceiling?

Where’s Your Glass Ceiling?
Photo from Flickr by Christopher Baird

By Sean Claes
Some people flip burgers, some work at a retail store, and some may work security at night to make a little extra money. You play music. The difference is, “promotions” in music is 100% in your hands. You create your own glass ceiling. The amount of work you put into it = the amount of success you can have.

Now, I’m going to assume one thing. I’m going to assume you are talented. I know that’s a big assumption, but in order to make this article make sense that has to be a prerequisite. You have to have a certain skill set to take your craft to the next level. If you don’t have the talent to make it, nothing else in this article will help you. We can’t all be doctors. We can’t all be sports stars. And, we can’t all be musicians. And that’s fine. God created us with a certain skill set. If music isn’t yours… it’s best to accept that and move on.

Got it? OK, we can go on.

Here are five ways a talented musician can create their own glass ceiling.

1. Don’t Practice – Practice is key. Stevie Ray Vaughan didn’t roll out of bed in the morning the first day he picked up the guitar and jam “Rude Mood.” He practiced. A lot. You can’t become good unless you practice as much as you can. You don’t become great unless you do that for many, many years. So, practice.Take lessons. Always strive for improvement.

2. Don’t Play In Clubs – Clubs is where bands cut their teeth. It’s where you develop your performance style, it’s where you can play to a room full of people and test out your music on virgin ears. Many times you’ll hear about popular bands that play small clubs in order to hone their sound when coming out with a new album. THAT is how important it is to play intimate venues. You simply can’t make it to the next level (or stay there) without considering the listener. If you can get a crowd who doesn't know you jamming along with your music, you’re doing something right. You can’t go straight from the garage to the big venue and expect that.

3. Don’t promote yourself – The bands you hear about most are the ones people are talking about. Yeah, that’s a bit of a circular sentence there, but it’s true.

Think about the last 3 new bands you’ve heard. Now… how did you hear about them? Was it from radio? In a magazine? Online? From a friend? On Facebook? On Twitter? How did it get to their hands? Someone created a buzz that got to the right person who made decisions or someone reached a blogger you trusted. It’s all about promotion and with an indie outfit that’s got to start within the band.

4. Piss people off – Who you are as a band comes down to your most pissy member. Be genuine, humble and thankful wherever you go. You never know who's watching or listening There is a popular local band I won’t mention by name who puts on appearances that they’re all about the fans. I had a conversation with a person who was designing their album art and this individual told me the lead singer said something to the effect of “I don’t give a (crap) about the fans, this is my music and my vision and if they don’t like it, (screw) them.” From that day on, I’ve never gone to see them, never listened to one of their songs, and ignore all contact with them. (In case you don’t know, I own an entertainment magazine in Austin).

I’ve heard of quite a few bands blacklisted from certain clubs, or bands that refuse to play with certain other bands, or booking agents who refuse to book bands because of attitude. Put it this way, there’s only one W. Axl Rose and he became a self-centered ass AFTER he got famous… and it was the 1990s so it was acceptable. Now, with social media, bands are so transparent that if you piss someone in power off, the world can know about it in 30 seconds. So, every time you piss someone off, you’re lowering that glass ceiling.

5. Depend on critic’s opinions – At the end of the day, if you’ve giving it your all, done your best, and you’re happy with the result, that’s all that matters. Who cares if a critic compares your music to two drunk cats fornicating in an elevator? What good does it do to take THAT to heart? There’s always going to be negative people out there writing entertainment reviews who are waiting to get hold of your music so they can pick it apart (or be able to use the word “fornicate” in a review). Some people get paid really good money to tell people what they thinks sucks. That’s why music critics get a bad rap (because stereotypes are based on truth). That’s why I’m not that kind of reviewer…. But this isn’t about me. It’s about you. And at the end of the day a little person who feels they must demean someone in order to be read should me met with sadness for that person, not anger. If you’re proud of your work then stand behind it and don’t give the naysayers the time of day, much less a piece of your heart.

You’ve got to have the talent, will power, desire, thick skin, and ability to represent yourself in a good light in order to have the chance to make it in the music business. No guarantees. There are plenty of amazing musicians I know that never broke through. Sometimes it’s not in your control. But, you have to make sure you’re dong all in your power to make the right decisions about the things you DO have control over.

That’s what the glass ceiling is all about.

December 2, 2010

Week 11: Keep It In Your Pants

Keep it in your pants.

This week, I had lunch with a really prolific musician whom I’ve been following for a few years. He just keeps getting better and better musically. And because of this, he’s slowly climbing the ladder of popular Austin musicians. He’s being tapped for some pretty neat gigs. He played Austin's “Rally To Restore Sanity” and is going to play the “The Downtown Holiday Stroll” this weekend. His name is Dave Madden, but the name isn’t as important as the idea he gave me for this week’s article (although you really should check him out).

We were talking about new bands and musicians who seek advice. Many times a band will get ahead of themselves and assume since they are a band, they need to do some of the things more established bands do. Things like dynamic Websites, booking at larger clubs, producing CDs and selling merchandise.

ebay - where band shirts go to die (and where I got this pic)

I know, one of my first entries was on Merchandise, and I’m a big believer in merchandise as a money maker… but you have to make sure you will make a wise investment in merch… don’t just go buy shirts because you are in a band and have a logo. So, before you spend $1,000 on merchandise, answer these questions.

1. How long have you been a band?
2. Do you have a fan base?
3. Is there a demand for your merch?
4. What kinds of merch would your fans want?

And until you can answer all of these questions, keep your wallet in your pants.

How long have you been a band?
You’ve just started out and you may have a few gigs under your belt. Don’t assume since the bands you’re playing with have shirts and koozies that you will make any money that way. You need to come up a little bit more, get some exposure and build a following.

At this point, if you have to invest in something, invest in improving your craft. Take guitar lessons. Take vocal lessons and learn how to be a better front man. Spend the time and money to hone your music and make it something that a stranger walking down the street would hear and it would make him stop, look, and walk into that bar to see. Treat your music like a job. Take classes, workshops, find a mentor and soak up musical knowledge like a sponge.

Do you have a fan base?
What does your mailing list look like? How many people come out to see you on a regular basis? Are they the same people or different? When you can bring new faces into the crowd each gig and have a mailing list of a few hundred people, THEN you can start thinking about merch. Otherwise, you’re spending your money on something that has no customer. If people won’t spend $5 to see you play live, what makes you think they’ll spend $20 on a t-shirt? Build the fan base.

Is there a demand for your merch?
Other than your girlfriend, brother, sister, or cousin, is there someone out there that wants to wear your band’s shirt? Make sure there are folks out there who are aching to spend their money to walk out of a club with something that bears your name. Until then, if you feel you have to hand something out… hand it out. Don’t sell it. Give them a demo.. or a business card with a link to a place they can download your music. Give them something that will strengthen the bond between listener and band.

What kinds of merch would your fans want?
Every band I know that sells merch has CDs and t-shirts. Most have koozies, and some have posters. Now, when is the last time you used a koozie? When is the last time you spent $5 on a koozie instead of getting the free one someone handed you at another show? Is there really a band out there that you want to promote by using their koozie? Think about it.

Now let’s talk t-shirts. I’ve got a vast collection of black concert shirts that have been given to me over the years. Most of which are from bands that don’t exist anymore. Now, don’t get me wrong folks, if you send me a t-shirt (I’m an XL) I’ll take it without complaint, but I’ve only bought a handful of shirts in my lifetime from bands. About the only one I can recall buying is Los Lobos. I wear a few from local bands as well… but I’ve become a t-shirt snob now and only wear shirts I think have cool artwork… and I prefer non-black. Think about someone like me when you’re considering shirts. Because… your fans are likely thinking the same way.

I’d much rather get something useful. A hat, bracelet, sticker, keychain, or poster. Mostly something I can spend a few bucks on to support the band and stick in my pocket.

But, that’s me. Check with your fans and ask if they’re interested in merch and if so… find out what they’d want to buy. I’ve seen some cool stuff. Necklaces, rolling papers, condoms, doll parts, and stuff like that. Be creative as you like, but make sure your fans will get enough of a kick out of it that you can make your money back and then some.

To wrap up
Don’t invest in something that you haven’t done the homework on. I’m not saying don’t go spend your money on things to promote your band. I’m just saying, if you are treating your position as a musician like a job, you have to be accountable for the things you spend the band’s money on. And in order to be sure it’s time… think. And until you do… keep you wallet in your pants.